Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Australia's Iconic Platypus Faces Extinction Threat Due to Climate Change and Human Activity

Animals
Australia's Iconic Platypus Faces Extinction Threat Due to Climate Change and Human Activity
A new study raises concerns about the decline of platypus populations. UNSW Science

The devastating wildfires in Australia that have claimed the lives of more than a billion animals, by some estimates, are just one of the effects of global climate change the country's wildlife is grappling with. Australia is also currently in the grips of an extreme drought, and the nationwide average daily temperature recently hit nearly 106 degrees Fahrenheit, shattering the previous record.


According to a new study published in the journal Biological Conservation this month, the severe drought conditions and heat, combined with habitat loss and other impacts of human activities, are pushing one of Australia's most enigmatic and iconic endemic species, the duck-billed platypus, toward extinction.

The study, led by researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney, examines the potential impacts on platypus populations from the range of threats the animals are facing, including water resource development, fragmentation of river habitats by dams, land clearing for agriculture, invasive species, global climate change, and increasingly severe periods of drought.

Richard Kingsford, director of the UNSW Sydney Centre for Ecosystem Science and a co-author of the study, noted that platypuses live in areas undergoing extensive human development, which threatens their long-term viability. "These include dams that stop their movements, agriculture which can destroy their burrows, fishing gear and yabby traps which can drown them and invasive foxes which can kill them," Kingsford said in a statement.

New UNSW research shows the possibility of the iconic Australian platypus becoming extinct because of threats including climate change and human-related habitat loss. UNSW Science

According to the research, current climatic conditions together with the impacts of human activities and other threats could lead to platypus abundance declining anywhere from 47% to 66% over the next 50 years and cause the extinction of local platypus populations across about 40% of the species' range.

The study's lead author, Gilad Bino of UNSW Sydney's Centre for Ecosystem Science, said that action must be taken immediately to prevent the disappearance of the platypus. "There is an urgent need to implement national conservation efforts for this unique mammal and other species by increasing monitoring, tracking trends, mitigating threats, and protecting and improving management of freshwater habitats," Bino said in a statement.

When taking into account predictions of how global climate change and its impacts will worsen in coming decades, Bino and team determined that platypus abundance could be reduced by as much as 73% over the next 50 years, mostly due to increases in extreme drought frequencies and duration. "These dangers further expose the platypus to even worse local extinctions with no capacity to repopulate areas," Bino said.

These impacts would increase the platypus' risk of extinction such that a downgraded listing on the IUCN Red List would be warranted, Bino and team state in the study. The species is currently listed as "Near Threatened," but would likely qualify as "Vulnerable," according to the researchers. Bino argued that the team's findings add to an increasing body of evidence showing that the platypus, like many other native Australian species, is on the path to extinction.

Study co-author Brendan Wintle, a professor at the University of Melbourne, said that it was imperative that conservation measures be implemented now to forestall the platypus's slide into extinction: "Even for a presumed 'safe' species such as the platypus, mitigating or even stopping threats, such as new dams, is likely to be more effective than waiting for the risk of extinction to increase and possible failure."

Reposted with permission from Mongabay.

U.S. returns create about 15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. manonallard / Getty Images

Many people shop online for everything from clothes to appliances. If they do not like the product, they simply return it. But there's an environmental cost to returns.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Climate Envoy John Kerry (L) and President-elect Joseph (R) are seen during Kerry's ceremonial swearing in as Secretary of State on February 6, 2013 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong / Getty Images

By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian

John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Scientific integrity is key for protecting the field against attacks. sanjeri / Getty Images

By Maria Caffrey

As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.

Read More Show Less
A pair of bears perch atop Brooks Falls in Alaska's Katmai National Park, about 100 miles from the proposed Pebble Mine site. Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times / Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos

Environmental campaigners stressed the need for the incoming Biden White House to put in place permanent protections for Alaska's Bristol Bay after the Trump administration on Wednesday denied a permit for the proposed Pebble Mine that threatened "lasting harm to this phenomenally productive ecosystem" and death to the area's Indigenous culture.

Read More Show Less

OlgaMiltsova / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Gwen Ranniger

In the midst of a pandemic, sales of cleaning products have skyrocketed, and many feel a need to clean more often. Knowing what to look for when purchasing cleaning supplies can help prevent unwanted and dangerous toxics from entering your home.

Read More Show Less